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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Babies teaching school bullies a lesson

This news post is about 8 years old

Study declares Action For Children Scotland's unique parent and baby classes a success in reducing aggression in school pupils

A Scottish charity has found a unique way to significantly reduce bullying in schools.

Action for Children Scotland has revealed its Roots of Empathy programme saw a 76% reduction in aggression in a group of school pupils.

The programme involves a baby and their parent visiting a primary class throughout the school year in a bid to teach the pupils that for brains to develop, they need to be cared for with attention and love.

This new research shows that the innovative programme has made a significant impact on their development at what is a very important age

The idea is the young pupils are then able to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others, causing them to think twice about being aggressive towards their peers.

A study, carried out by QA Research and Glasgow University, examined the extent to which the programme changed aggression and empathy in children aged between five and eight years-old. Data was collected from pupils receiving the intervention and from a control group.

Researchers found after taking part in the programme the intervention group were 76% less likely to be aggressive than the control group.

Paul Carberry, director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “This new research shows that the innovative programme has made a significant impact on their development at what is a very important age.

“Roots of Empathy supports the raising attainment for all agenda to close the attainment gap for pupils, particularly those in deprived communities.

“We welcome the findings of this new research that shows the programme continues to help improve the life chances of children across Scotland.”

Action for Children Scotland first brought Roots of Empathy to the UK in 2010, when it was piloted in North Lanarkshire.

To date over 15,050 school children have taken part in the programme and it is now available in 26 Scottish local authorities and also in the north of England and Wales.

Parenting expert Mary Gordon, who developed Roots of Empathy, added: “Through the leadership of Action for Children and the support of the Scottish government, we are very proud of the implementation integrity in Scotland and the commitment to research. In Scotland, obviously the government ‘measures what it treasures’.”

Aileen Campbell MSP, minister for children and young people, took part in programme with her son Crawford at Lanark Primary School.

She said: “I loved every session of the Roots of Empathy programme and so did my wee boy Crawford.

“This simple and effective programme promotes empathy and kindness and shows, through its baby teachers, the power of loving and nurturing relationships - the report launched today demonstrates Roots of Empathy’s effectiveness.

“I am so proud to have been able to share the developmental milestones of Crawford’s life with the beautiful children of Lanark Primary school and to know that the pupils have gained a lasting benefit from this.”